Kant at Ground Zero
February 09, 2004
Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida Edited by Giovanna Borradori (University of Chicago Press, 208 pp., $25) I. Was philosophy prepared for the events of September 11? To judge by all available evidence, the answer must be a resounding “no.” For some time now, contemporary philosophy has viewed “worldliness”—the perfectly natural idea that thought should take a healthy and constructive interest in worldly affairs—as a source of contamination. Analytic philosophy’s triumph in the decades following World War II meant that henceforth philosophy would
He Meant What He Said
February 02, 2004
I. Adolf Hitler's so-called second book was not published in his lifetime. Written, as Gerhard Weinberg convincingly speculates, in late June and early July 1928, the book’s publication was postponed because Mein Kampf, Hitler's first massive text, was selling very badly and could hardly stand competition with another publication by the same author. Later, after Hitler was appointed chancellor and Mein Kampf became one of the greatest (and allegedly most unread) best-sellers of all times, the second book was apparently seen as disclosing his foreign policy plans too explicitly to allow publica
January 26, 2004
On December 18, two federal appeals courts rejected the Bush administration's claim that the president has the unilateral authority to identify citizens or aliens as enemy combatants and to detain them indefinitely, at home and abroad. The rulings were a clear sign that President Bush's sweeping claims that he can do whatever he likes in the war on terrorism without review by the courts or Congress are provoking a judicial backlash.
December 15, 2003
The most beautiful libraries exude a bookish rapture, and no libraries have more of this luminous poetry than the glorious confections, all polished wood and shining stone and white-and- gold stucco, that royal families and religious orders built in the eighteenth century, mostly in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
July 07, 2003
Elie Nadelman: Sculptor of Modern Life, Whitney Museum of American Art In the art of Elie Nadelman, sobriety and enchantment are strangely, wonderfully entangled. Nadelman, who died in 1946 at the age of sixty-four, gave sculpture’s ancient mandate to turn real space into dream space a modern vehemence and an adamantine logic, but also a flash of what-the-hell insouciance.
May 05, 2003
Èdouard Vuillard: Post-Impressionist Master (National Gallery of Art; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) Symbolism, an apotheosis of personal expression that swept through all the arts at the end of the nineteenth century, marked Europe’s final break with the classical humanism of the Renaissance. The struggles for romantic independence that had animated artists, writers, and musicians in France, Germany, and England for more than a hundred years emboldened the Symbolists to follow their sensations wherever they might lead.
April 21, 2003
Who's next? As Saddam Hussein's regime crumbled this week, that was the question being asked by commentators across the globe. And, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took to his podium to declare that the United States would hold Syria "accountable" for its weapons shipments to Iraq—a charge backed up by Secretary of State Colin Powell—it seemed the Bush team had finally provided the answer.
April 21, 2003
The House of Representatives has not exactly risen to meet our present world-historical moment. After France opposed invading Iraq this winter, congressional Republicans acted like a petulant band of Bill O’Reillys. French fries were replaced in House cafeterias by “freedom fries,” conservatives tried to kill a contract with a French firm to feed U.S. Marines, and a Colorado representative demanded an end to the use of French-made headstones at Arlington National Cemetery. These were largely symbolic, if infantile, gestures.
March 03, 2003
Gershom Scholem: A Life in Letters, 1914-1982 Edited and translated by Anthony David Skinner (Harvard University Press, 512 pp., $35) Click here to purchase the book. I. I. When the Baal Shem Tov had to do something very hard, he went out into the woods, lit a fire, and said a prayer, and the task was done. In the next generation, when his disciple had to do a difficult thing, he also went out into the woods. He could no longer light the fire, but he said the prayer, and that was enough.
New York Diarist: United We Fall
March 03, 2003
Not since that lofty spiritualist Dag Hammarskjold has there been a U. N. secretary-general whom the worthy have so taken to their bosoms. A great moral aura attaches to Kofi Annan, even though--as a lesser U.N. official in both bloody Bosnia and bloodier Rwanda--he kept armed multinational forces under his command from impeding the macabre work of mass murderers. But, at the Secretariat, the salient comparisons are to ex-Nazi Kurt Waldheim. So it is not surprising that Annan considers himself the embodiment of all that is virtuous in world affairs.